Friday, February 19, 2010

Interesting History at CPAC

I'm sitting here watching Michelle Bachmann speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual conference, and I'm hearing a really interesting account of history. I'm learning some new things tonight:

- FDR took over a "manageable recession" and spent the U.S. into the Great Depression (last I checked, FDR was sworn in in January of 1933, which, if my math is correct, was some 3.5 years into the global economic collapse);

- Obama is solely responsible for the 'bail-out nation.' (I, too, forgot that there was another bailout prior to Obama taking office. The start of the bank bailout really wasn't during the Bush administration, back in the fall of 2008...Obama was elected and was able to go back in time and do that one...I have forgotten about that);

- the Dems want nothing but 'a state of decline for America.' I guess this must be the case because they don't agree with everything the conservatives believe in. I seem to remember vaguely that a battle-cry from the far right goes something like 'you're either with us or against us' which then translates into 'if you don't agree with me you are not a patriot.' This was then followed on Obama's inauguration day with the cry of 'I hope he fails,' led by Rush himself.

- oh, and as John Pence said during his speech, the solution to all our economic woes is for government to get out of the way, deregulate the market so there are no restrictions on them, and cut taxes across the board, especially for the rich. Well, that was what happened during the last 8 years under Bush...oh, I forgot that was the flawless plan that worked perfectly. The current Great Recession was not started with any issues of a greatly deregulated marketplace. It was all Obama's fault, which he was able to make happen during that same trip back in time he made to start the bailouts. Yes, Mr. Ponce, you are so have the answer for getting us out of this Obama recession.

- There are many Republican state and local officials (such as Gov. Tim Pawlenty of MN) who, in front of one set of cameras, rail against the Obama stimulus bill and how it has done nothing but waste money and create zero jobs, but then in front of another set of cameras back in their states brag about balancing state budgets (such as Pawlenty) and go to ribbon cutting ceremonies for new bridges, highways, buildings, and other infrastructure projects that did produce jobs, that were funded through the stimulus bill. So, which is it? Oh, I forgot they get it both ways, as long as they sneak in that this is another attempt by Obama to help America decline.

- They discount the Congressional Budget Office's (non-partisan office responsible for providing Congress with budgetary projections and analysis) confirmation of White House numbers that some 2 million jobs have been saved or created since the stimulus bill was introduced that otherwise would have disappeared, flatly saying it is not accurate or true, but then turn around and use the CBO numbers for deficits and long-term budget is the CBO only competent when the data support your causes and agendas, and completely incompetent when they contradict what you want to say?

- One of the catch phrases every speaker is using is the 'bail-out nation' that Obama has created, and they tie it into the stimulus bill. Again, interesting history I apparently had incorrect in my own mind. I was under the impression these were two completely different bills (TARP vs ARRA). The bank and auto industry bail-outs were done initially in order to save the once thought 'too big to fail' corporations that screwed up the national and global economies. I seem to remember that it was the Bush administration that started the TARP process...and yes, some were throwing around the D word, depression, had this not happened. By the way, I did not hear any speakers yet mention that most of the TARP money given to the banks has been paid back, with a goal of getting it all back in the next few months. Even GM has plans of beginning to pay back money from the auto rescue (by June), that prevented hundreds of thousands of other jobs being lost. The stimulus bill (ARRA) is centered on some $250 billion in tax cuts and credits (the CPAC speakers failed to mention that one for some reason), infrastructure projects (which most reasonable people know we are desperately in need of all around the country; I certainly appreciate the road work that was just completed where I live that would not have happened without the stimulus money), education (as school budgets are imploding around the country, and especially here in Illinois, because of state budget catastrophes and the housing collapse that began under the Bush administration, although I have heard some Republicans even put this one on Obama), transportation (such as the frantic race to submit high-speed rail proposals in red and blue states), and energy (funding for alternative energy projects and businesses, which is already beginning). The new thrust by Obama into construction of new nuclear power plants is going to come from some of the stimulus money. I thought he would get some credit for this last one, but I am waiting for the far right to criticize him some how for going with something the right has wanted for years.

I guess this is a useful history lesson for me because I had it all wrong, apparently. On a serious note, I lose respect very quickly for anyone who twists, or worse, simply makes up, their own self-declared facts and evidence to promote their cause, whatever it is. And because these are 'distinguished' people who are on TV with big microphones, many people who are not familiar with true facts and reality will believe them.

It is all in the name of winning an election, this one being the midterms coming up in November. Heaven forbid they all just shut the f*$& up and work for the many millions of American people who are having a difficult time right now. I am becoming a fan of Evan Bayh, who said the other day that the American people need to vote the incumbents out of both parties who do nothing but contribute to the nasty political gotcha games...screw politics, and do what's right for a change. Reasonable people can sit down and come up with reasonable solutions and compromises to solve many of our problems. There really is a political middle majority within America, and CPAC is NOT that middle. More than one has said since I have been watching that they don't want Republicans elected, but rather Conservatives. This is not the average American being represented, and average Americans will hopefully be able to distinguish true history from CPAC fantasy.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal - Beginning to Develop STEM Standards

I've been writing and talking about needed STEM changes in our science and technology classes for years, and this includes the last deluge of recent posts below. By chance, just today in Education Week is an article describing the just formed national task force charged with developing the initial framework for new STEM standards that will fit into the Obama administration's education policy.

Presently, 48 states are working on new sets of learning standards for the primary areas of reading and mathematics, and this new task force, which is coming out of the National Research Council (NRC), has just stated that the primary philosophical goal is to break away from learning a thousand individual and often disperse facts and concepts, and include a much stronger focus on thinking, reasoning and analytical skills. This is music to my ears!

As wonderful as this news is, we must keep in mind that this new group's purpose is to soley develop the 'conceptual framework' for new standards. Then the results and recommendations from this task force must go to the states and the Department of Education for review and for the details. My hope is that none of these groups go too far in either direction. We need some core concepts and subject knowledge (i.e. content), to be sure. But it is widely believed, and certainly by yours truly, that we have reached a point of near saturation of content knowledge in today's classroom. What we cannot do is go entirely to open-ended and project based classes that then totally ignores subject content. We need balance, where content knowledge is gained, but then also used and applied in a variety of creative and innovative ways, which is where deeper thinking, analystical and reasoning skills are developed and deeper science understanding and literacy are reached.

I have told students, colleagues and many others many times that, personally, I could care less how we do on international tests, which tend to focus almost entirely on content knowledge and recall. I'll gladly take a hit on national testing results in favor of developing a deep thinking, creative generation of students who can solve everyday, complex problems in new, innovative ways. While some different countries place first in international testing, I always like to ask, "OK, but how many Nobels have you won? How many important patents or publications do your scientists produce? How many new industries have you created?" For most countries the answers are none. Innovation, problem solving, analysis, recognizing and making progress in complexity/chaos/networks, communication within multidisciplinary collaborations, and so on are the future in a global economy adn society. This is a first step that is on the right track of reforming our education system so the next generation is properly prepared for such a world.